Yakuza and zombies mix well
In my vast inventory of interests, mafia movies are one that would make me curl up on a weekend afternoon with popcorn, drinks and other treats in hand. While I know that some famous mafia movies and television series are being developed into video games, Sega’s Yakuza series is already a perfect combination of action, adventure, and the mafia. I was thrilled to combine my love for the series with zombie elements in Yakuza: Dead Souls.
Set a year after the events in Yakuza 4, an unknown disease outbreak in the district of Kamurochō has affected its residents, turning them into zombies through bites. As a result, the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force has been called in to assist with the slow and expanding quarantine. During this chaotic time, certain enemies of the Tojo clan have arisen to take advantage of Kamurochō’s suffering. The fate of Kamurochō and Japan rests in the hands of four men: Shun Akiyama, a loan shark trying to save his sick receptionist; Goro Majima, a feared yakuza and construction company owner who is fighting his own infection; Ryuji Goda, a disgraced yakuza and takoyaki chef whose clan has a tie to the outbreak; and, series protagonist Kiryu Kazuma, who runs a children’s orphanage and returns to Kamurochō when his adoptive daughter is kidnapped.
Dead Souls is an open-world game that combines action, adventure, and survival horror elements. The plot is one akin to samurai movies where there are four chapters with four parts for each character with the final chapter reserved for Kiryu. Controls for movement and the game camera are simple with the analog sticks. You will also be given “memos,” a list with special sections to teach you basics such as using weapons, evasion, and close quarter combat, which help when facing off against the legion of zombies. I appreciated the ability to level up each character’s attributes through use of soul points that upgrades abilities to carry more items, improve knowledge of zombies, weapons modifications and protective gear, and master advanced close quarter combat techniques.
As the game progresses, your current character will be assisted by three NPCs: Reiko Hasekawa, a researcher who offers information and rewards for completed tasks; Gary “Buster” Holmes, a firearms expert who helps the protagonists and their temporary companions with gun training; and, Renji Kamiyama, weapons seller and modifier of weapons and protective gear who can also be used as a pawnbroker to buy rare items.
I also appreciate the classification of various zombie enemies; that organization method can help you plan the appropriate strategy or simply avoid contact with them. While you’re running around Kamurochō, pay attention to the music. It’s one of Sega’s best soundtracks in the modern era and puts the Yakuza series among Sega’s go-to roster of great soundtracks.
The graphics are OK for the time when it released. It’s good for an open world game, though there’s room for improvement. Though, compared to other games at the time, Yakuza: Dead Souls doesn’t necessarily outshine the competition; it just merely competes. The only real problem I have with Dead Souls is the inclusion of scenarios where you must chase down people while fending off zombies. I know a yakuza got to make his money, but Sega was putting these characters in dangerous conditions without any protective gear, which is slightly unrealistic.
Dead Souls is great to play on a day off or slow weekend, though I would offer two pieces of advice: Do not play late at night, and do not play while COVID-19 is still around. It’s a nice attempt to mix multiple genres. I can say this with no doubt: Sega’s got a smash hit ready to secure all bags and show its competition why it does not pay to underestimate the Yakuza.
* Yakuza is the term given to transnational crime organizations based in Japan. They are also known as” boryokudan,” which the Japanese police advise for public media to use when covering yakuza-related stories. The yakuza also call themselves “ninkyo dantai,” or chivalrous groups.
* According to Japan’s National Police Agency as of 2020, there are at least 25,900 active yakuza members, despite rigid legislation aimed to combat yakuza involvement with the Japanese public. These members are accounted among the three major yakuza families: Yamaguchi-gumi, Somiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai.
* Yakuza groups have been known to operate in major U.S. cities and use Hawaii as a hub to conduct various legal and illegal enterprises.